The Flying Scrolls of Logos

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

This blog is intended to represent some of my ideas concerning brotherhood, peace, and proper learning. I invite all who read my posts to respond with their own opinions, including disagreements. It is my hope that others will find my ideas appealing, take up the torch and carry that light in the path of their own glory.

Love is the law, love under will.


Davin Maki

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Fall of Modern Hermeticism

Introduction to the Fall

"The voice of my undying and Secret Soul said unto me--'Let me enter the path of darkness and, per adventure, there I shall find the light. I am the only Being in an Abyss of Darkness; from an Abyss of darkness came I forth ere my birth, from the Silence of a Primal Sleep.'"[1]

Few statements describe the magick of initiation as clearly and succinctly as the speech of the Hierophant after the the oath of the Neophyte has been given. The 21st century magickal current--one rife in obscure symbols, rites of initiation, obscure medieval grimoirs, and riddled with cryptic axioms and metaphors--has as its core the elevation of the spirit towards the greater good of of personal freedom, charity, universal brotherhood (or sisterhood, as the case may be), and a profound knowledge and acceptance of one's own relation with the natural world. In recent times, there has been a growing popularity for the aesthetic and the intellectual background of magick, rather than its initiatory formula. It has become a back alley for those who wish to gain fulfillment and popularity in the new sub-culture, Neo-Hermatism. Along these lines, I think there is a general decline in respect for the initiatory aspect of magick. The magickal community is beginning to become lost in vain and unprofitable discourses, calumny, petty jealousies, and power struggles. Over time, it may become nothing else but a dying fad of the 20th and early 21st centuries--this would be most sad indeed.
Perhaps we need to be reminded what the great thinkers concerning Hermeticism actually thought about magick. I will begin with alchemical analysis of the most noble quote with served as the opening to this essay. In alchemy, the darkness would be the nigredo phase, the material under work is first trans-substantiated through a process called putrefaction. This trans-substantiation of the metal liberates its "Secret Soul," or the prima meteria, or sperma, as it were[2]. This process of eliminating the impediments to the true expression of the soul through trial is just as much of an important task today as it was to the early alchemists.
The magick of Aleister Crowley is intimately connected to this foundation of alchemical initiation. As is discussed in Initiation in the Aeon of the Child, the initiate must "[L]ift himself [the candidate] from his state of torpor, he must lay the second layer of stone [of the pyramid of initiation], pass through the stage of Putrefaction and be transformed into one who may develop the Spiritual Perception that will give him the Power to unbind his own feet and discover the nature of his own being[3]". Here again, we see this motif of stepping into the darkness and finding the light of freedom and understanding. Here, the path of initiation begins with the casting off of the dross of debauchery, in favor of Light, Life, Love and Liberty[3].
In the Magick of Aleister Crowley, this process is described in, albeit more exoteric, very suitable terms:
"[T]he magician knows that the pure Will of every man and every woman is already in perfect harmony with the divine Will; in fact they are one and the same. It is the Magician's Great work to endeavor to remove the obstacles that hinder his or her perfect realization of that Will and then proceed to execute it[4]."

Although Lon DuQuette's message isn't expressed in alchemystical terms, the essential function of his words are the same--that a radically new step towards freedom must be taken after the impediments of ordinary life are cast off.

I could continue on, ad nauseum, with a list of descriptions of the processes of initiation and the history thereof; it would, however, be to great an endeavor for the purposes of this essay. It will suffice to say that, in most most forms ceremonial magick, there is a process by which the aspirant either works towards this most noble task, or springs forth from it. The process of High Magick is one of personal liberty, by way of the attainment of a deeper understanding of one's relationship to nature and a proportional sacrifice to that cause. But there arises from time to time disturbances which shift our focus from this most noble agenda.
      Much of what occurs in the name of "modern occultism" does not have any of the feeling of the aforesaid first work. Too often do I hear or read about magicians, from a variety of different groups, silently defaming one another behind closed doors. Every day, these so-called adepti clamor for attention and recognition by their peers. These people know the nomenclature and wear the vestiges of past masters in order to have recognition as knowers of obscure things. In the wise words of Swami Vivekenanda, "[S]imply wearing the vestiges of a culture does mot make one accustomed it its social mores"[5].  Increasingly, I'm noticing a trend that is moving away from the humanities and towards that of egoity and an obsession with recognition and prestige.
In an age where Hermeticism is becoming an ever increasing fad, many people are entering into the occult world on the wrong foot, as it were. As a result of this, many of the novices to the craft walk away from their initial experiences ether discouraged, or believing that the path to initiation really is more about understanding curios and obscure intellectual bobbles and having a reputation for it.
Like all fads pass, so will the occultism fad. There is a serious problem with this. The 21st century is an unique time for occultism. In the past, occult texts (and their corresponding traditions) have survived mainly through the diligent efforts of clergy members and academe [6]. However, in today's time, there is little interest for the preservation of occult doctrines outside of our own realm. Modern magick and alchemy sometimes appears as a footnote, or a comical vignette in any serious text on the History of Ideas. Today, the church is more ignorant of occultism then it ever has been in the history of occultism. I'm skeptical that a veritable Meric Casaubon will be waiting for us to fade, so that he can preserve our craft "for the sake of Christian piety"[7].
If we want to preserve our craft, we should focus more on the philosophical content and the humanities aspects of modern magick. A focus on the liberation of the soul can only be achieved while serving the interests of peace and learning. It is stated that "[G]overnment is service and nothing else"[8]. As initiates on the path, we should look at our own position in world in similar light: that we have an obligation to render a service to the novice seeking a new path to personal freedom. I believe that we are truly entitled to little else. It is only then that the novice's attention is brought to the true beauty of Love, Light, Life, and Liberty. Was it not Dion fortune who said that Magick is for the healing of the nations[9]? What is needed is a throwback to universal brotherhood and charity. Then, our craft will be preserved through the ages--as a tradition rife in beautiful symbolism, a charitable and gentle community, and a true desire to bring humanity closer to that "royal republic which is the highest ideal of human society"[10].

Works Cited:
1. Regardie, Israel.           The Golden Dawn, 5th ed.
2. Eliade, Mircea.             The Forge and The Crucible, 2nd ed.
3. Gunther, Daniel J.         Initiation in the Aeon of the Child
4. DuQuette, Lon Milo     The Magick of Aleister Crowley
5. Swami Vivekenanda     Raja Yoga
6. Holmyard, E.J.             Alchemy
7. Casaubon, Meric          qtd. from the preface to A True and Faithful Relation
8. Crowley, Aleister         Liber CI
9. Fortune, Dion               Sane Occultism
10. Crowley, Aleister         Magick Without Tears

1 comment:

  1. Very engaging post! I think there's a lot to be said about examining the values of hermeticism as an ethical and operative paradigm - looking forward to reading more.